Tony Perkins

Apparently we now have a new form of business license “Religious Business.”

On Tuesday Tony Perkins sent an email to supporters reacting to Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s news conference. Perkins, leader of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council, has some interesting ideas about what constitutes discrimination.

The governor addressed the complete falsehood that RFRA is about denying
people a seat in a restaurant or a room at a hotel. Christians would
never deny people these services but being forced to participate in a
ceremony that violates religious beliefs is completely un-American and
uncivil. We must ensure that religious business owners are not forced by
the government to participate in a same-sex ceremony. What RFRA is
intended to do is to protect people from government discrimination.
However, until we see the wording of his proposal, the impact on
religious businesses and churches is unknown.

Mr. Perkins could not be more incorrect. Suppose, for example, rooms at a hotel were to be used by guests attending a same-sex wedding. Under Indiana law the hotel owners could refuse service and then pose an affirmative defense that providing rooms for a gay marriage violated their religious beliefs. Later on Perkins continues to display his ignorance or, perhaps, cynicism:

The government shouldn’t force religious businesses and churches to
participate in wedding ceremonies contrary to their owners’ beliefs. If
the government punishes people for living their faith, there are no
limits to what government can control. We want to be sure that the
measure proposed by the governor isn’t used as a weapon to impose
punishing fines on people like florist Barronelle Stutzman, bakers Aaron
and Melissa Klein, and wedding photographer Elaine Huguenin.

Apparently we now have a new form of business license; Religious Business. Religious businesses are to be treated similar to churches. And just what is a religious business? What makes a business eligible to be treated like a church? It looks like just the owner’s self-righteousness will suffice.

Perhaps yielding to the concept of public accommodation is a better idea. Barronelle Stutzman is only able to sell flowers because public roads and public transit bring people to her shop. Her shop is protected by fire and police departments. While she pays for utilities such as electricity and water they cannot be provided without public infrastructure. All of these services are paid for by the taxpayers, including LGBT citizens. We make exceptions in many laws for houses of worship because they are unique and protected by the First Amendment. No matter how devout the owner of a flower shop is, her business is not exempted. She is, most certainly, not operating a house of worship.

Now if all of that is too burdensome for “florist Barronelle Stutzman, bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, and wedding photographer Elaine Huguenin” then nobody is forcing them to operate a public accommodation.

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.